Ein erfolgreiches Jahr liegt hinter uns – wir freuen uns auf 2016

Ein kurzer Blick zurück zeigt uns: Ein Jahr mit sehr intensiven bilateralen Kontakten und erfolgreicher Arbeit liegt hinter uns. Die Beziehungen zwischen Australien und Deutschland konnten mit dem Austausch im Kreis der Australia-Germany Advisory Group auf eine neue Ebene gebracht werden. Den beiden Regierungschefs und allen, die in unterschiedlichen Bereichen zwischen Australien und Deutschland tätig sind, liegt nun ein gutes Dokument mit Empfehlungen für ein breites Spektrum von Aktivitäten und Maßnahmen vor, an dem wir uns in den kommenden Monaten orientieren werden.

Wir freuen uns also auf 2016 und werden das neue Jahr beginnen mit Elan und dem Ehrgeiz, unsere Pläne nun mit Leben zu füllen.

Zunächst möchte ich aber zum Ausklang von 2015 noch eine schöne Veranstaltung erwähnen, die bei uns in der Botschaft in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Förderkreis Denkmal der ermordeten Juden Europas in Berlin den Blick auf ein Stück gemeinsamer Geschichte lenkte: die „Landung in Australien“ (so auch sein Buchtitel) von Egon Erwin Kisch, dem bekannten Journalisten und Autor der 1920er und 30er Jahre. Wir haben dabei von einem Kisch-Spezialisten, dem Wiener Professor Markus Patka, sehr interessante Details über die Reise von Kisch 1934-35 nach Australien erfahren.

Mit Professor Markus Patka und Lea Rosh vom Förderkreis in der Botschaft vor einem Powerpoint-Bildschirm

Mit Professor Markus Patka und Lea Rosh vom Förderkreis bei uns in der Botschaft

Ihnen allen wünsche ich eine schöne Weihnachtszeit, erholsame Feiertage und einen guten Jahreswechsel.

Botschafter Ritchie steht neben einem Strohkänguru vor einem Weihnachtsbaum

Cities and the Built Environment: Germany and Australia Learning from Each Other

We were delighted to welcome the Hon Jamie Briggs MP, Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, for a visit to Munich last week focusing on Munich’s approach to integrated planning, housing, public transport and accessibility, innovation and economic growth.

Munich is Germany’s third-largest city and one of its fastest-growing, with a current population of 2.8 million in the Greater Munich area, projected to grow to 3 million by 2030. Munich shares many similarities with a number of Australia’s fastest-growing cities, and the Minister was keen to understand how the city has managed its recent growth, as well as its approaches to the integration of migrant communities.

A highlight of the Minister’s visit was the meeting with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs, where the Minister heard about Bavaria’s approach to integrated planning, as well as the significant integration challenges arising from the recent influx of asylum-seekers to the region.

Photo of Minister Briggs with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs standing next to each other

Minister Briggs with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs

 

The Minister’s meeting with representatives of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce for Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK) focused on trade and investment, innovation and the collaboration between universities, institutes and industry in Bavaria. Minister Briggs said Australia was keen to collaborate more with Germany on innovation and commercialisation, and agreed we should do more to boost trade and investment, including exports of Australian wine to the Bavarian region.

Minister Briggs stands next to Peter Driessen, Managing Director IHK Munich. They have exhanged gifts and hold them in their hands. Briggs has received a Bavarian cup and Driessen holds a wrapped package.

Minister Briggs and Peter Driessen, Managing Director IHK Munich

A discussion with representatives of the Munich Transport Company (MVG) offered insights into the city’s highly successful integrated approach to public transport and urban planning. At the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the Minister heard about Munich’s experiences with the integration of asylum-seekers in the region, including the importance of targeted language courses, training and skills recognition to promote quick integration into German society.

During the discussions, Minister Briggs highlighted the warm and longstanding people-to-people links between Australia and Germany, including in his South Australian electorate. Echoing the recommendations from the recent report of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, Minister Briggs emphasised that Australia wanted to build on these existing links to strengthen bilateral ties.

Prime Minister Turnbull on a visit to Berlin

The Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, made an enormously successful visit to Berlin on Friday, 13 November, only the third country he had visited since becoming Prime Minister.  Mr Turnbull was accompanied by his wife, Lucy Turnbull AO, and by the Australian Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann.
During his visit the Prime Minister was hosted by Chancellor Merkel at a working lunch in the Federal Chancellery, met the German Foreign Minister, Frank Walter Steinmeier, had a roundtable meeting with very senior German business leaders and attended a reception in his honour at the Australian Embassy.  He also met German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble during a private dinner on the evening of 13 November.
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Prime Minister Turnbull was hosted by Chancellor Merkel at a working lunch in the Federal Chancellery

The main focus of the Prime Minister’s visit was receiving the report of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, established when Chancellor Merkel visited Australia in November 2014 to look at ways of upgrading and strengthening the already very close and warm bilateral relationship between Germany and Australia.  The Co-Chairs of the Advisory Group are Senator Cormann on the Australian side and the Staatsministerin in the German Foreign Office, Professor Maria Böhmer. Senator Cormann and Minister Böhmer presented the report to the Prime Minister and Chancellor following their meeting at the Chancellery.
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The report contains 59 major recommendations aimed at building a much stronger and more modern relationship between the two countries.  All 59 recommendations have now been agreed to by both the Prime Minister and Chancellor and will now be implemented.  Of particular note is a decision by both countries to have a regular “2 + 2” dialogue of their Foreign and Defence Ministers to discuss major international and strategic issues.
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In addition, on 12 November, Senator Cormann and Finance Minister Schäuble signed a revised Australia-Germany Double Taxation Agreement, the first such revision since the agreement was originally signed in 1972.  The revision of the Agreement will benefit both the Australian and German business communities significantly.  The signature of the Agreement represented the implementation of the first of the Advisory Group’s recommendations.
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Senator Cormann and Finance Minister Schäuble signed a revised Australia-Germany Double Taxation Agreement

I commend the report to you all and urge you to read it.  It is an excellent outcome from a year’s dedicated work both by the two Co-Chairs and by all members of the Advisory Group, which included Lucy Turnbull.
Chancellor Merkel and the Prime Minister agreed that Senator Cormann and Professor Böhmer should continue to monitor the implementations of the report’s recommendations and to report back to them on progress in doing so in 12 months.
Sadly, following the completion of his program in Berlin, the terrible terrorist attacks occurred in Paris.  Follow this link to see the Prime Minister’s comments on these awful events from Berlin.

 

Herbstlicher Alltag in Deutschland – Frühling in Australien

Die nun herbstlichen Tage in Berlin zeigen uns in der Australischen Botschaft, wo wir jeden Tag auch Kontakt zu unseren Kollegen im jetzt frühlingshaften Australien haben, wie gut sich unsere beiden Länder ergänzen.

Während hier nach einem schönen Sommer der Alltag mit vielen Veranstaltungen und Terminen eingekehrt ist, geht in Australien langsam der Blick auf die kommende Sommerzeit. Jedenfalls freuen sich unsere Kollegen in Canberra und an anderen Standorten in Australien jetzt schon über warme und sonnige Frühlingstage.

Das wird viele Menschen hier in Europa und gerade auch in Deutschland und der Schweiz bei Urlaubsplänen für die kommenden Monate auch an Australien denken lassen – und wir regen sie gern an, ihre Pläne auch umzusetzen und sich schon einmal unter www.australia.com auf Australien einzustimmen.

Unterdessen geht natürlich auch das Programm australischer Veranstaltungen – oder jedenfalls Veranstaltungen mit australischem Bezug und Inhalt – hier in Deutschland weiter. Zuletzt war ich in Halle an der Saale bei der Eröffnung eines sehr interessanten Projektes, bei dem internationale Künstler aus dem Bereich Neue Medien vorgestellt werden. Gemeinsam mit meiner Kollegin aus Kanada, Botschafterin Marie Gervais-Vidricaire, habe ich mir bei einem Festival mit dem schönen Titel moveON – new media art from Australia, Canada and Europe ein Bild von neuen Entwicklungen in innovativen Kunsttechniken machen können.

Aussenansicht des Veranstaltungsortes. Eröffnung des Werkleitz Festivals 2015. move ON (© Falk Wenzel)

Eröffnung des Werkleitz Festivals 2015. move ON (© Falk Wenzel)

Botschafter sitzt in der ersten Reihe bei der Eröffnungs des Werkleitz Festivals 2015 .move on (copyright Michel Klehm)

Bei der Eröffnungsrede des Werkleitz Festivals 2015 .move ON (© Michel Klehm)

Die verbleibenden Tage des Oktober werde ich nun teils wieder in Australien verbringen. Wie ich schon zuvor schrieb, findet in Canberra das nächste Treffen der Australia Germany Advisory Group statt, und ich freue mich, dass wir in der Runde erneut zusammenkommen und unseren Abschlussbericht vorbereiten können, der dann Bundeskanzlerin Merkel und Premierminister Turnbull vorgelegt werden wird.

Eine ereignisreiche Zeit

Zurück in Berlin, nach einigen Wochen in Australien zu verschiedenen Konsultationen, komme ich nun in den sehr aktiven Berliner Frühherbst, mit noch schönen Sonnentagen und vielen Veranstaltungen, mit denen das politische Leben nach der Sommerpause wieder aufgenommen wird.

Ein Höhepunkt dieser Tage wird für mich – wie für viele andere, die direkt oder indirekt über die Medien daran teilnehmen – die zentrale Feier zum Tag der Deutschen Einheit in Frankfurt sein. Ich freue mich darauf, gerade zu diesem 25. Jahrestag mit hier in Deutschland dabei sein können und dort viele bekannte Gesichter wiederzusehen. Vor dem Hintergrund der aktuellen Ereignisse in Deutschland wird es besonders interessant sein zu hören, was die führenden Politiker des Landes in ihren Ansprachen sagen werden.

Aber auch Australien hat in den letzten Wochen in Deutschland besondere Aufmerksamkeit bekommen: Unsere Botschaft war in mehrere wichtige kulturelle Veranstaltungen mit eingebunden, bei denen australische Filme, Kunst und Literatur vorgestellt wurden.

Das 5. Down Under Berlin Film Festival war mit einer breiten Plakatkampagne in diesem Jahr in der Stadt besonders präsent und konnte vor allem mit einigen engagierten Dokumentarfilmen Diskussionen über Themen anstossen, die in Australien ebenso wie in Deutschland im Blickpunkt stehen. Der bereits vielfach ausgezeichnete Film „Once My Mother“ über ein Flüchtlingsschicksal nach dem 2. Weltkrieg hat dabei den Publikumspreis bekommen.

Das Team von Down Under Berlin

Das Team von Down Under Berlin

Parallel dazu waren einige bekannte australische Autoren beim 15. Internationalen Literaturfestival in Berlin. Vor allem Richard Flanagan fand mit der deutschen Übersetzung seines mit dem Booker Prize ausgezeichneten Romans „The Narrow Road to the Deep North“ viel Resonanz.

Schließlich konnten wir in der Botschaft zur Berlin Art Week eine sehr spezielle Ausstellung eröffnen: Glaskunst aus Canberra, geschaffen von Künstlern, die an der Australian National University tätig sind. Der dort von dem aus Deutschland stammenden Klaus Moje begründete Workshop arbeitet seit längerem mit einer Partnerinstitution in Berlin zusammen, Berlin Glas. Die hochkarätige Ausstellung wird im Anschluss noch in Düsseldorf gezeigt werden.

Ein Beispiel unserer neuen Ausstellung mit Kunstwerken aus Glas

Ein Beispiel unserer neuen Ausstellung mit Kunstwerken aus Glas “Collaborative Endeavour”

Fotos der Künstler bei der Arbeit in der Berliner Glaswerkstatt

Die Künstler bei der Arbeit in der Berliner Glaswerkstatt

Auch im Oktober stehen in Deutschland einige Kunstfestivals an, bei denen australische Künstler mit dabei sein werden. Das bietet einen willkommenen Hintergrund für das nächste Treffen der Deutsch-Australischen-Beratergruppe (oder Australia Germany Advisory Group, wie wir sie nennen), zu dem ich Mitte des Monats erneut nach Canberra reisen werde.

Welcome, Young Endeavour

For those of you who live near or are planning on visiting Bremerhaven over the next couple of days, could I draw your attention to the magnificent Sail Bremerhaven 2015 Festival that is on there at the moment (12-16 August).  Not only does it bring together some of the world’s most beautiful and exciting tall ships but, most important for we Australians, for the very first time includes the famous Australian sail training ship, the Young Endeavour, which arrived in Bremerhaven on 12 August.  I had the great pleasure of meeting the Commander of the Young Endeavour, Lieutenant Commander Gavin Dawe OAM RAN, during a reception which President Gauck hosted in Bremerhaven on 12 August and I know that he and his crew would warmly welcome meeting as many Aussies as possible during their short stay there.  So go along and support the Young Endeavour and its crew.  

The Young Endeavour on approach to dock (source Wikimedia Commons, Chris Phutully from Australia)

The Young Endeavour on approach to dock (source: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0], Chris Phutully from Australia)

 

Bilateral relationship in renewed focus

With the European summer holidays now in full swing, I wanted to look back at a very exciting series of important events in the bilateral relationship that took place during July.  We have rarely had so much serious and welcome attention in Germany on ways in which we can strengthen and expand the already very good linkages between our two countries.  It’s a great time for Australian-German relations!

Before July, however, I should just note the excellent seminar that took place on 16 June here in Berlin on the Australia-Germany relationship.  The seminar was arranged by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and brought together experts from both countries and other friends of Australia.  I, of course, greatly appreciate the Stiftung’s hosting of this extremely interesting event and hope that we can continue the process initiated by the seminar in the future.  I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in that very useful discussion (www.kas.de).

From 30 June to 2 July a very high level Australian delegation from the Europe Australia Business Council visited Munich.  The Australian Finance Minister, Senator the Honourable Mathias Cormann, accompanied that delegation.  Their program included calls on a wide range of German businesses and organisations based in Bavaria, including Siemens, Allianz, BMW and the Fraunhofer Institute, and Senator Cormann and the delegation also met the Bavarian Deputy Ministerpräsident and Minister for Economic Affairs, Media, Energy and Technology, Ilse Aigner.

The following week, from 7 July, the focus shifted to Berlin, where, in the lead-up to the first joint meeting on 10 July of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group set up by Prime Minister Abbott and Chancellor Merkel, a substantial Australian business delegation, led by Senator Cormann, undertook a very intensive business program with German companies, ministries and organisations to discuss ways of further expanding our trade and investment relationship.  Members of that delegation also participated in a very interesting business program throughout Germany arranged by the Australian Trade Commission, focusing on specific sectors with really good prospects for future business between us.  In addition,  during his time in Berlin Senator Cormann met Deputy Chancellor Gabriel and his Parliamentary Secretary, Dr Beckmeyer, Finance Minister Schäuble and the Minister for Education and Research, Professor Wanka, to exchange ideas on further cooperation between our two countries and to discuss current international economic issues.

Senator Cormann also made a major speech at a very well-attended event organised by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation on 9 July on “The Australian-German relationship and Opportunities Moving Forward” (for full text, see www.financeminister.gov.au/speeches/2015/0709-konrad.html).  This was followed, that evening, by a large reception co-hosted by the two Co-Chairs of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, Senator Cormann and Minister of State Professor Maria Böhmer, at the Reichstag, at which we had the privilege of listening to some wonderful Australian musicians playing in that superb and historic building, including guitarists Slava and Leonard Grigoryan, who made a stop in Berlin on their way to a concert in Saarbrücken and presented some of their exciting duo pieces, and violinist Stanley Dodds and pianist Kathryn Bolitho, who performed a mixed German-Australian program with works by Johannes Brahms and Peter Sculthorpe.

As mentioned earlier, the Australia-Germany Advisory Group held its first joint meeting in Berlin on 10 July.  The meeting, which I attended, saw a considerable meeting of minds on ways forward for our relationship and there was a substantial exchange of ideas on ways in which to do this.  It was incredibly stimulating to be there!  Prior to the meeting, the members of the Group had been able to meet very briefly with Chancellor Merkel and to have a lengthy discussion with the Head of the Federal Chancellor’s Office, Minister Peter Altmaier.  This very high-level attention to the work of the Group just underlines how important an initiative it is and sets the scene for a very interesting and substantive report to the two leaders later this year.  The next joint meeting of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group will take place in Australia in the next few months, probably in October.

It was a seriously interesting series of events and a tremendous privilege to have been there!

And here are a number of images from our various events, showing Senator Cormann speaking at the Embassy; meeting German Federal Economics Minister Sigmar Gabrial along with members of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group; at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, along with German MP Volkmar Klein, KAS Deputy Secretary General Dr Gerhard Wählers, and myself; Slava and Leonard Grigoryan performing at the Reichstag; Stanley Dodds and Kathryn Bolitho; Senator Cormann meeting Federal Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, along with State Minister Professor Maria Böhmer; and the Advisory Group at the Chancellery and at the Foreign Office.

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